“THE TRUTH WILL RISE”
Thank God English and writing have little to do with each other.
—LEON URIS, IN A 1959 INTERVIEW
THAT RESPONSE TO A NOTE sent home after he failed English for the third time in high school unmasks Leon Uris’s love of writing. In his novels, speeches, lectures, and essays, he understood that words could change the way people act. But you had to be on guard against rhetoric, which deceives, as a paragraph written in high school and titled “The Truth Will Rise” makes clear. In it, Uris is skeptical about public language: in America, he writes, “we get handmade, lie-riddled news that fears telling the truth … We are being blinded to the facts and bullied into another war.”1 Other early documents match this in intensity and protest. A student poem indicts the lynching of a black man, and a second text opens with a chained fighter of the working class but ends with a stanza imitating the Communist Party’s “Internationale.”2
The tone of complaint and the voice of politicized, assured youth, mixed with exhortation, anticipate Uris’s later anger at and censure of personal abuse, political mistreatment, and the exploitation of individuals by governments and the law. The prose passage also anticipates his own choleric nature, which resulted in fractious relationships and lawsuits. Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, and various publishers were among his targets.
Liberation, politics, and protest—the features of these early works—reveal the deep-seated character of Uris’s drive for social action, which would express itself in works like Exodus and Trinity, novels in which national and personal freedoms intersect. His early writing, whether criticizing workers’ lack of rights or the absence of free speech, contains the seeds of Uris’s later support of and determination to aid Russian refuseniks, Jewish immigrants, and history’s victims.
The source of Uris’s persistent outrage at injustice was his family, more specifically the political ideals and actions of his father. Wolf Yerusalimsky, later known as Wolf Yerushalmi (man of Jerusalem), and then, in America, as William Wolf